50% capacity. Phase 4 of re-opening. Such phrases have become all too common to us over the past 5 months as our country continues to open, and re-close due to COVID-19. The past 5 months have also provided their share of hardship and new beginnings for domestic violence survivors who had no other option but to break free of their abusive relationships. In doing so, they have provided hope to other survivors an and inspiration to all.

Meet Jeara, whose story first appeared in the online Fort Collins Coloradoan on May 1st. Jeara is the mother of four young children, ranging in age from 11 to 4. For 12 and ½ years, Jeara was the victim of domestic violence. She and her children ended up at a domestic violence shelter in Northern Colorado on March 12th after her husband ripped off a necklace and her glasses, shoved her, and blocked her from leaving the home.

Grabbing whatever she could before leaving, Jeara and her children were able to get into a domestic violence shelter around the same time that COVID-19 really started to make its presence felt in Colorado. At first, according to the Coloradoan article, the virus really was not much of an issue at Jeara’s shelter. However, after Jeara was there for about 1 week, the school system her children went to closed for the year. By late April, the shelter began instituting a strict curfew requiring all residents and their families to be inside by 9 p.m.

As the shelter continued to institute more safety measures, including reduced staff and mandatory masks, Jeara turned to home-schooling her children. At first, this was quite the challenge since the only internet access she had was the hotspot on her phone. That has since changed, the shelter eventually installed wi-fi access, and the school district has provided extra workbooks and laptops.

After getting settled into the shelter, Jeara applied for and received a permanent protection order against her husband when he left her a threatening voicemail that he would “come get her” if she and the kids did not return to him. This Colorado order remains in place until it is lifted by the court and applies only to Jeara. Yet, it is one more step she has taken towards her new beginning.

Jeara’s perception of herself and her kids has changed dramatically since this new beginning. While she initially considered herself a victim, she now says “I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor and so are my kids.” By the end of May, Jeara was scheduled to start online classes at a western Nebraska community college to become a probation officer. Next on her list of to-dos is filing for divorce and obtaining custody of her children.

Jeara’s story of survival is one of many in the era of COVID-19, and a great example that practical steps and personal strength can help one transition from becoming a domestic violence victim to a survivor during a pandemic.

Scott Hahn